When the time comes to retire, it's important that things like informing patients of your plans, ensuring continuity of care, and dealing appropriately with patient records are all taken care of in a way that complies with the GDC's guidelines and your contractual responsibilities.
Our advice is a great place to start.
Informing the primary care organisation (PCO) and patients
First, a dentist will be expected to inform the local PCO and agree a date for departure from the practice and removal from the performer's list.
The provider's contract will stipulate a notice period, which should be followed.
The GDC also expects treating clinicians to tell patients about their retirement, along with any arrangements made for their continuing care - for example, if another dentist will be taking over the practice, or if the practice will close and treatment will transfer to another practitioner.
A well crafted notification letter can be useful for the goodwill of the practice and to make patients feel their dental health is in good hands.
Patient records are an important consideration for dental professionals closing a practice.
- Adult dental records should be kept for a minimum of 11 years after the date of the last entry.
- For patients under 18, records should either be kept for 11 years after the date of the last entry or until the patient is 25 - whichever is longer.
Where there has been an adverse incident or complaint, the DDU recommends the patient's records are retained indefinitely, even if the matter appeared to be satisfactorily resolved at the time. This will help protect the dental professionals involved if anything else regarding the incident happens in the future.
Even after retirement, it's important that patient records are stored in a way that protects confidentiality. The Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA) states that appropriate technical and organisational measures should be taken against accidental loss or damage of or to personal data.
Many dental professionals will opt to use a commercial archiving facility, while others choose to store them at home. However they are stored, they must be secure and accessible if they need to be accessed in order to respond to a complaint or claim.
If the practice is sold rather than closed, the solicitors acting for the seller should include a clause in the sales agreement for records to be retained by the new owner for the minimum periods outlined above, and for the seller to be given reasonable access to them.
Confidentiality also extends to the disposal of records. It's important this is done in a way that ensures confidentiality is protected, and in accordance with national and local waste disposal requirements.
See our guide on good record keeping for more information.
Business and administration
As well as patients and the PCO, it's also important for dental professionals to seek appropriate legal and accounting advice on issues such as winding up a company and submitting final accounts, termination or transfer of staff contracts, and any redundancy pay.
The GDC Register
If a dental professional is permanently retiring, it's not necessary to stay on the GDC Register. However, it is advisable to make sure you have no plans to return to the profession in another guise, such as locum work or writing expert reports.
If you want to be restored to the register after removal, be aware that the reapplication process involves providing evidence of good health and character, compliance with the GDC's recertification CPD requirements, and paying a restoration fee to the GDC.
When you retire, you don't have to keep paying DDU membership subscriptions. Just tell our membership team the date of your last working day, and your membership will be transferred to a free-of-charge retired membership category. This includes continuing to receive DDU publications, as well as cover for Good Samaritan acts.
Your access to discretionary assistance will remain in place for clinical procedures you carry out up to the date of your retirement.
This page was correct at publication on 18/01/2022. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.